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Monday, March 3, 2014

Unasked questions fog facts on Benghazi -- Pentagon sensed terrorism quickly -- By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times

File:Defense.gov News Photo 101202-N-0696M-289 - Commander U.S. Army Europe Gen. Carter Ham appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the findings of the Don t Ask Don t Tell.jpgRepublican lawmakers have failed to pin down senior military officials on how they characterized the Benghazi attack to the White House and President Obama on Sept. 11, 2012, the day terrorists stormed a U.S. diplomatic mission and bombed a CIA annex in the eastern Libyan city.

The issue gained importance in January when Republican members of the House Committee on Armed Services released former top-secret transcripts of senior officials testifying on the military's response to Benghazi.

For the first time, it was disclosed that retired Army Gen. Carter Ham, then head of U.S. Africa Command, testified that he had told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, that day that Americans in Benghazi were under attack by terrorists, not demonstrators. He said both men agreed.

The Jan. 13 disclosure opened another avenue of inquiry on Benghazi. It also spurred reports among conservative media that the nation's two most senior military leaders immediately knew the assault was a terrorist attack and must have told the president that day.

A White House reporter told presidential spokesman Jay Carney that the House transcripts showed that Gens. Ham and Dempsey and Mr. Panetta "believed within minutes of the attack" that it was "probably a terror attack."

But a review of Gen. Ham's June 26 testimony shows he never was asked precisely when he came to that conclusion. Was it when he met with Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey before they went to the White House and spoke with the president? Or was it after they returned to the Pentagon a short time later and the three gained more information as the CIA annex attack began? A precise answer is not in the transcripts.

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